The irrationality of the music industry

This morning’s Observer column

Q: What’s a record company?

A: An organisation whose survival depends on suing those who are potentially its best customers.

I exaggerate – but only slightly. Scarcely a week goes by without some salivating music industry executive detailing the latest batch of lawsuits launched against file-sharing teenagers. In an interesting variation on this litigious theme, Candy Chan, an American parent of one of these errant youngsters, refused to settle on behalf of her 13-year-old-daughter, Brittany. When she announced this plan of action, however, the record companies decided to go after the kid directly.But in order to do this they had to find a way of neutralising mummy. So they petitioned the court to push Mrs Chan aside and appoint a legal guardian in her place.

Truly, you couldn’t make this stuff up. The whole saga of music downloading is set to become a business school case study on the lengths to which an industry will go to defend a business model that technology has rendered obsolete…

Update: It looks as though sophisticated use of the Internet by bands is much more extensive than my reference to Arctic Monkeys implied. Here’ for example, is an intriguing Wired article about